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Is it safe for children to weight-train?

Working the guns.

Playing with weights is as safe for children as it is for adults. Like all things, boundaries and limits are to be applied.

I have been asked many questions relating to health and fitness and weight training over the last 23 years in the gym.

If I knew the answer to the question of when it is safe for children to weight train, I would be lying. However, after all that time and my love of deducing conclusions from simply observations of consistent trends around me, I would like to attempt to provide a solution.

I will use my powers of reasoning I have developed in my 40 years on this earth, so far.

Here we go ….

My son Zachary, doing weights even before he could all properly

Leading Legends

I am truly inspired by older generations who have maintained resistance training for most of their lives. Almost all of them look and feel like someone 10, 15 even 20 years younger.

Leading Legends” – that’s what I call them. They are great examples of making it part of lifestyle.

Some of them used to tell me about how perceptions have changed over the last 50 years in regards to exercise in general and in particular – the many myths relating to weight training.

There were and still are many myths relating to weight training. There was a time when people were saying that weight training wasn’t good for women. Before that athletes like rugby players were told to stay away from weight training as it would ‘slow’ them down – this wasn’t too long ago – even in the 70s.

And even further back, it was even questioned whether weight training was in fact good for anyone at all. Times change and myths get busted. Myths are just that – myths and are meant to be dis-proven.

It is only in more recent times that the general public has accepted that weight-training is of enormous benefit to women too. I am so happy about the increase in women attending gyms as I have seen this landscape change quite a bit over the last two decades.

Now, my question is if weight training is now believed to be of enormous benefit for men and women, why shouldn’t it be good for children? After all isn’t exercise good for everyone?

My son Zachary would crawl around my Family Gym that I owned & managed for 7 years. He used to remove the pins from the machines to the dismay of the members

To weight train – you do one thing 

The truth or my version of ‘the truth’ in my straight-forward answer is that weight training can benefit any individual – young or old – who is healthy enough to engage in the activity. But that is just my opinion.

I have helped hundreds of people of all ages – kids under ten (including my children) all the way to people in their 90s. Human physiology is the same no matter what age. To weight train – you do one thing: work the muscles. To do this, you literally extend and contract that particular muscle under tension/force provided by the weight.

Simple. Right?

The very old and the very young and everyone in-between can do that. It’s what muscles are meant to do: to ‘work’ for you.

There are still myths relating to children training even in today’s world. The biggest fear amongst parents appear to be the possible negative effects on the development of children prior to puberty – that lifting stunts the growth of children.

If this was the case, the famous Arnold Schwarzenegger would should not have grown to 6’2” as he started lifting weights well before he hit puberty. I am not a Doctor but I believe this irrational fear is unfounded medically.

My daughter on the leg extension machine in my a family gym

How are risk assessments done?
My question is if weight-training was a height depressant, why is it that considerable growth can sometimes take place in the ‘post-puberty’ years. And if this was a medical fact, then, everyone should only start weight-training when their full height potential has been reached. For some, this would be well in to their early twenties.

The issue as I see it relates to the formation and growth of bones. I can understand the parents’ worries, including my family Doctor’s. From what I understand about what I have read about bones, the process of bone formation and growth is hopelessly complex and wonderfully simple at the same time.

If I recall correctly, Tiger Woods picked up and was training in golf from the age of 2 and was coached by his dad. Leytton Hewitt began playing tennis around the age of 3. Some top swimmers were undergoing stringent 4am early-morning training programs from a very young age, where parents were driving them to and from swimming pools. I know because I had good friends that were doing that when we were in Primary School.

Not many made the Olympics.

Is this any different to subjecting a child to some gym training under supervision in a gym? How is it that the perception of risk of a child in the gym is greater than that of a child on a soccer field, swimming pool, golf course or rugby field? What about a child playing tennis or netball? How are these risk assessments done?

I believe the risks to a child and his or her growing bones and muscles is higher with the other sporting activities compared to the risks associated with supervised structured weight-training.

With some of the members of my Family gym
Playing around with some ‘light weights’ … that children can also play with

A better athlete gets better results.

In my opinion the risk to bones, joints and muscle development and overall health risk (injuries from knocks to the brain and head in Rugby or other contact sports) is greater to the young kids playing most sporting activity outside the gym, compared to structured activity in the gym. My assessment of risks of these contact sports is VERY HIGH to EXTREME, because of the repetitive knocks to the head and recurring concussions.

I believe proper muscular development assisted by a well-structured weight-training program, complements whatever sporting activity a child/person chooses.

It simply makes them a better athlete. A better athlete gets better results.

The risks to the joints of the other sporting activities – like golf, tennis, netball, swimming, running etc is HIGH. The wear and tear to the joints is very high.

The joints are over used, and there is accelerated wear and tear and it shortens the effective useful life of your body. Just like any other machine of value you possess – say a car, for example. Depreciation rates can vary depending on how you use and service your machines.

Most individuals then suffer from premature ageing (from over-use) of joints and really suffer uncomfortable daily living later on in life. However, the risks to the child’s self-esteem; sense of self-worth and interest need to also be monitored too. Participants can be severely negatively affected because of the constant expectations of tolerance levels.

Weight-training done safely and under appropriate supervision is a safer and more beneficial to a child’s whole-self development then any other physical activity there is. Weight-training complements and helps make a child better at whichever sport they choose to participate in.

It is only now that tightening of regulations are being implemented to address not only some current risks but also long-term risks sustained by athletes.

My children are as comfortable with a set of light dumbells, not dissimilar to young budding soccer players or tennis juniors with footballs and rackets in camp and sporting academies. In this controlled soccer environments, no one appears to question the deliberate practises these children are forced to undertake in non-weight-bearing activities and how safe it is.

My son and I hanging out in my Family Gym

Just because a big majority of people are sending their kids there does not mean it is the safest or have the lowest risks.

Or how many instances of injuries are sustained by the very young, many of whom are regularly seeing physios and chiros at an age that is unheard of only a few decades ago.

What does this tell us? About the risks these kids are putting themselves under, the full extent will become evident in their later years.

People are only too quick to place gym training as a high risk but this is yet another myth and here is where I believe the problem is:

It is the inability of parents and administrators of sporting activities to initially correctly assess the level of risks. Yes, self-limiting beliefs unfairly bestowed on to children by parents who know no better.

Maybe they just need to adopt a new thinking paradigm that assists in the development of the ability to assess risks of activities and whether or not the risk is acceptable to them.

Time will bust these myths.

Big Truths will always beat Big Lies.

Believe in BETTER.

Make better choices with the life that you have left, with the lives of your children. Time on this planet is all that we really have anyway and one day … that will be taken from all of us.

This is one of those BIG TRUTHS or is this a BIG LIE? Anyone believe this is a MYTH?

All the best.

Until next time,

 

My wife & kids hanging out with me for a few hours in our Family Gym. The gym was my children’s playground.

Learning and absorbing our habits every single day of their initial phase of their lives is what our young Princes do.
Teach them well.

 

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Animal “types” you may encounter in the gym.

Strength is not only determined by how much you can lift for one rep

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I have been around gyms for over 23 years now and have observed some interesting things that seem to be special to the environment.

Gyms are popping up all over the place now and they cater for almost every individual’s tastes. Big and small, 24 hours or not. Hard-core or fancy. The more, the merrier – right? I’m not sure about that. Each gym has its own unique ambience and attract certain types of patrons.

Now I realise that you could add many more gym stereotypes but as I have spent my time mostly in the weights area of gyms (retro gyms tend to only have weights and a few cardio machines), I will comment on 4 types or sub-groups of patrons I tend to see.

You may or may have had encounters with these gym types during your workouts.

I have tried to use an animal-in-the-jungle analogy to identify these weight-training types:

Type 1: The Silverback – “The Steroid Guy” – (and girl in increasing numbers in today’s world):

Now, I have never taken steroids or performance-enhancing drugs in all my years of weight training and I don’t know much about it but I do know when someone is ‘on it’. It is quite obvious for the discerning eye.

A visual walking, talking pumped up to the eyeballs human anatomy. The vein in his or her neck and shoulders and arms are visible and throbbing and they have acne problems like out of control hormonal teenagers.

Watch out, he (or she) look like they may snap your head off and punch someone in the face at any moment (no, most are really nice). They tend to be very serious about their workouts and do not like anyone interrupting them. They are what I refer to as “live wire”.

Fortunately, I didn’t have that problem in the period I owned and managed my Family Gym.

Your goal: Keep out of their way!

Be YOU. Never imitate.

Type 2: The Peacock – “The Mirror Man” :

I would probably fall in to this category but not for vanity reasons (or maybe just a little). More so for focus and continuous assessment and feedback, amongst other things essential to the sport of natural bodybuilding.

For the ‘mirror man’, however he (or she in increasing numbers) likes to work out in front of and as close to the mirror as possible. Preferably, with his/her shirt off (well I haven’t seen a woman work out with her shirt off in 23 years but given the pace of change in many aspects of life, it may just happen one day in my lifetime).

It appears that these weight-training types are only concerned with one person and one person only: themselves, even if it means standing in your way and blocking you off from the weights rack.

Your goal: get angry (no, politely ask him/her to move).

Is this you, too

Type 3: The Skunk– “the stinker”:

These are (mainly men) that roll out of bed and shoot straight to the gym.

They don’t care to brush their teeth and so have horrible breath and even more body odour stench. They don’t seem to have friends to tell them that they stink. Isn’t that what good friends do?

Doesn’t really affect me as my tolerance for stench is pretty high but many other members approach me and tell me their disgust, hoping that I would go up and say something. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

Unfortunately for everyone, from my observation, it seems that these breeds of skunks tend to be some of the hardest workers in the gym and I take my hat off for them. However, they can populate their stink bombs right throughout the joint. It can be everywhere.

Let me share a health secret with you: this is one of the primary reasons why I prefer to train in non-air-conditioned gyms, there is better air-flow. Besides being tougher, but it’s healthier. A warm muscle is a healthy muscle. My family Gym did not have air-condition. 

Your goal: If you’re faced with this situation, you really have only one of two choices:

  1. Get out of there and come back another time
  2. Commence ‘mouth-breathing’.

Exactly.
That is exactly what many experience when they get overwhelmed & cannot manage.
They experience “Holy Shit!”

Type 4: The Hyena – “The Screamer”:

He’s the guy (or chick in increasing numbers) that shouts the roof down whenever he lifts. We’ve all seen (rather – heard them).

He’s like a screaming Sharapova on steroids and wants you and everyone else within a kilometre of the gym to know that he is lifting. He will scream even under ridiculously light weights either because of a need for attention or some other mental disease that needs diagnosing from a qualified mind doctor.

Your goal: protect your eardrums by listening to your favourite i-tunes.

My family gym was for everyone – from all walks of life, from all backgrounds, all races and ranged in age from teens to 90 year olds.
Everyone abided by ‘old-fashioned value’ – respect, patience, care, compassion, trust, tolerance etc
Here I am with one of my blind members (and her guide dog) who visited my gym 3 days per week for 7 years. Many other gyms descriminated against handicapped population. Not mine.
My gym was an ALL inclusive Family Gym.

I’m sure if you’re a regular gym-goer you could list out other stereotypes and match them to animals in the jungle. I feel that sometimes gym environments can be likened to jungles. There are many stereotypes and some of them just make you sit back and laugh.

So, my question to you is: which weight-trainee type do you fall in? Are you clearly one of the 4 types I have highlighted here or do you fall in a unique type?

So, find a gym that best suits you if you haven’t already. Actually, sometimes it is better to ask someone with the experience to recommend a ‘gym type’ that is best suited to your personality type and if you want to go deeper, then consider the best gym to suit your principles and values.

But I’ll give you more guidance on selecting the best gym for you in a future blog.

Train SMART.

Until next time,

Members of my ‘extended family’ when I used to own and manage my gym for seven years. Some of the best and hardest years of my life so far. I loved leading the members (predominantly males – 70%) and they allowed me to take them to unchartered territories for us all.
The gym was (unlike today’s) a social place. An ‘inbetween home’ between your place of work and your home.
Relationships based on fairness, trust, care and compassion.
A place where men could share stories, their aspirations, their fears and hopes …and be listened to … without fear of retribution or ridicule.
It was these group of Mens ‘last refuge’.
I hope to bring it back one day … to the world.

 

My Family of friends in my gym I owned and managed for 7
years.
All working towards being the ‘best the can be’

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Eating Right actually takes less time than you think: Tip # 4.

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Tip # 4: Take your Nuts with you, wherever you go!

Total estimated time taken out of your day = approx. 10 minutes (as detailed in my previous blogs) –

Represented by:

Time to perform Tip # 1= 5 min

Time to perform Tip # 2 = 3 min

Time to perform Tip # 3 = 2 min

So, hopefully you are trying to incorporate the first 3 tips I have shared with you in my previous blogs. Also, hopefully, you are slowly being convinced about my subject heading.

With this tip (#4), adding nuts to your day is a fantastic ‘snack’ option. Like I have mentioned in a previous blog, ‘snack’ does not need to be a euphemism for junk food. Snacking can be healthy too and should be encouraged for many good reasons.

What do you need to do?

Eat nuts but don’t go nuts on it!

All you need is a handful. Actually, we all have different size hands so I will be more specific – eat less than or equal to 30g of nuts. Some good nuts to choose from include: walnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts and macadamias.

Quick snacks on the run should still ideally provide high-quality protein with a controlled amount of carbohydrate. This handful roughly provides between 4g and 7g of Protein and Carbohydrates and vary from nut to nut.

Time taken to perform this Tip # 4 in the mornings is approximately 1 minute. Yep, only 60 seconds. So, the running total for the 4 tips so far is approximately equal to 11 minutes. Eleven minutes out of your busy day!

Just to eat right.

A good snack. Berries are a wonderfully tasteful treat.

Good Fats.
My aim is to show you how my Top Ten Tips to eating right should take you less than 30 minutes of your day. Why is this eating tip worth your time and of great value to your body, you may ask?

Well, it provides ‘good fats’ to your body. Yep, not all fats are ‘bad’, but you know that. Your body needs fats to survive and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There are some vital minerals and vitamins that are fat soluble only.

For example, vitamins A, D, E and K are some such vitamins. So, these essential vitamins are only assimilated in to your body as nutrients in the presence of fat.

Even for those of you reading this blog that have started or are planning to commence your ‘get fit for summer’ training program, understand that losing fat is assisted when you provide the body with fat. Good fats, that is.

That’s correct – you need fat to burn fat!

Good fats provide many benefits such as omega – 3 fatty acids that elevates good cholesterol or High Density lipo-proteins (HDL). Why is this important? Well, this lowers your risk of heart disease as blood is more malleable, that is, blood is made thinner, hence flows better to keep you alive.

Good fats from nuts also provide joint protection. This is vital for those of you who work out in the gym with weights – like me. Having nuts in your diet allows better recuperation for inflamed joints, stiffness and swelling. You’ve got to be nuts not to include them in your diet after reading this.

It should also be noted that these good fats are found in cold water fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel and plant-based foods such as flaxseeds and soyabeans. Reach out and grab them and add these sources to your diet.

To dig deep, you have to dig deep.

Nuts come in many sizes.

The average person does not eat adequate daily amounts of these good fats, probably less than 1g per day. Carrying around two or three servings of nuts with you in your busy day does not take much time to consider and provides great value to your body, mind and vitality.

Nuts come in many sizes but are essentially small and convenient enough to eat ‘on the run’. Here’s an old Uni riddle: What do you call nuts on a wall? Yep, walnuts. So go for walnuts. There’s no excuse!

We’re on track to prove that Eating right actually takes less time than you think. So far, a grand total of 11 minutes out of your day to apply my Top Four of my Top Ten Tips to get you in Tip-Top Shape this summer.

You’re now Aware. Apply Action. Adapt accordingly.

My Triple A philosophy to self-development.

Thank you for reading.

 

Until next time,

Do you strive to better yourself in every way?
Are you a Leader?

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